We Believed -- Film Review

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VENICE -- Mario Martone is best known as an enfant terrible of Italian theater, and a filmmaker of significant critical acclaim. Which makes it hard to believe that he is behind the arid, anonymous made-for-TV film "We Believed," on the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy into a single state in the 19th century). There is no trace of Martone's nuanced direction over the film's three-and-a-half hours, or dialogue that sounds remotely like human speech, especially from the 1800s. The who's who of Italy's A-list actors don't deliver lines, they make only bombastic proclamations about democracy, liberty and honesty: "If people don't tell the absolute truth, in their hearts and in their gestures, they will never be a great people" This is meant to stand in for conversation and character development.

Despite constant exposition on individual events, "We Believed" will be indecipherable for foreign audiences unfamiliar with Italian history and Martone offers no illumination on characters and events in a greater context.

Pre-festival buzz had it that "We Believed" is an important political film that explains how Italy arrived at its current economic and political situation from a decidedly left-leaning filmmaker. But it all plays like a disjointed, rhetorical Wikipedia entry on the historical period, brought to the screen though not necessarily to life.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Palomar, RAI Cinema, RAI Fiction, Les Films d'Ici, Arte France
Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Valerio Binasco, Francesca Inaudi, Andrea Bosca, Edoardo Natoli, Luigi Pisani, Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Fiona Shaw.
Director: Mario Martone
Screenwriter: Mario Martone
Producers: Carlo Degli Esposti, Conchita Airoldi, Giorgio Magliulo, Carlo Cresto-Dina, Serge Lalou
Director of photography: Renata Berta
Production designer: Emita Frigato
Music: Hubert Westkemper
Costume designer: Ursula Patzak
Editor: Jacopo Quadri
Sales: RAI Trade
No rating, 202 minutes
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